Church, life companies and denominations of the churches

There is an interesting paper out recently regarding the Sydney Anglican Church opening up its association certain Bible-based churches. The stated churches would fall into one of the following two groups:

  1. Congregations who wish to leave their denominational structure and wish to be associated with the Diocese. Some of these congregations were also looking to transfer legal ownership of “congregational property” to the Anglican Church Property Trust, although the committee noted that this would not be possible without State legislation.

  2. Independent churches who wish to have access to diocesan services, in particular inter-changeability of ministry staff with the Diocese and access to benefits such as long service leave, superannuation etc. There is also a desire to access information that is provided in respect of things such as tax, employment and salary packaging, insurance, occupational health and safety and child protection. It was recognised that if these services were made available to such churches, they should contribute to the cost of providing them.

Out of pure curiosity (and not in relation to any circumstance relevant to me), I am interested in point 2. This is simply because it has interesting similarities as to how life companies function. Read on for more…

For the uninitiated, many life companies are structured as two companies:

  • the life company itself, which issues the life insurance policies; and
  • a “service company”, which provides administration services (accounting, HR, IT, customer service) to the life company, for a fee paid by the life company.

This same concept probably can be applied to churches and denominations of the churches as well. Why don’t we have a service company that provides services which are “supports to ministry” but are nevertheless necessary for a church organisation to function in the world? These are things like

  • accounting
  • legal
  • leave, superannuation and other employee entitlements
  • information technology
  • child protection advice
  • other “consulting” services

The service company can be open to all, and not just churches from one denomination, and costs can be recovered on a fee for service basis. One may even like to appoint an actuary to do a proper expense allocation (that equitably allocates fixed costs, for example).

Is it sound? Will the pooling of resources make administration more efficient, freeing up more resources to do more “frontline” ministry?

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